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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An update on the book



Back in December of 2012, my book, “Jesus has two Daddies” was published by 2 Moon Press in Marshall, MI. The process was fraught with delays and issues with the formatting of the digital version. Little did I know that the business was sold and is now no longer publishing or distributing. The dealings were rather shady and there is currently a lawsuit being brought forth by a group of us angry authors. While I was able to secure a good supply of my printed book, the Kindle version was never in my control. The formatting issues were never fixed, nor did I ever see a profit/royalty check from the publisher, even though many digital copies were sold.
You can find the new and improved, (and under my control) book here:
You can also find it on Kindle here:
If you’d like a signed copy, please email me at taoakley@gmail.com  and we can talk details.

Thanks!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Preach it Tod!


My man posted this on his Facebook page and it has been shared all over the place.
I thought I would post it here for all those that are not on Facebook or didn't see it. It’s worth sharing.

Okay, I get that some of you believe homosexuality is wrong because the Bible tells you so.
What I don't understand is why you feel the need to legislate your religious beliefs on this issue?
Do you honestly in your heart, mind, and soul believe that by legislating your religious beliefs that homosexuals will suddenly say, "Oh, gee, I guess I shouldn't be homosexual any more"?
Why is this your key issue? Jesus and Paul both made it really clear in the Bible that if you get a divorce and then marry someone else you are an adulterer, why don't you legislate only one marriage certificate per lifetime?
Why do your religious laws have to apply to someone that doesn't practice your religion?
One final question, why are you one of my contacts, if you honestly believe that your belief in the Bible gives you the right to ban my marriage or Tom McMillen-Oakley from adopting our children, PLEASE DELETE ME NOW!"

There’s a reason I married this guy, he’s not afraid to speak his mind.
Preach Tod, preach!



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Wedding bells, ringing in the past and today


Us in California in 2008
Tod and I took a chance back in 2008 when we got married in California. To many of our friends and family, our commitment ceremony done in our backyard in 2001 was the best we could hope for in this backwards state of Michigan. In 2004, the “will of the people” prevailed and gay marriage was banned in MI. There have been several cases brought forward regarding this, but the most recent case DeBoer vs. Snyder was the one that ultimately toppled this unfair, unjust, and unconstitutional law.
When we flew to California in August of 2008, we told very few people, because we knew that once we returned home it would mean nothing. We didn't want the naysayers to try and talk us out of this rather expensive, and what appeared at the time to be futile undertaking.  But we wanted to be married, and California was one of the first states to allow residents from other states to marry without a residency requirement. Plus, we had rock-star DJ (and great friend) Jeb Edwards marry us. Flash forward to fall and Prop 8 put a temporary hold on our marriage for over a year, once again, the will of the people. The will of some heavily funded outsiders and religious groups (Catholics and Mormons… lookin’ at you) who really had no business meddling in my personal life and the personal lives of so many others.

But once again, we prevailed. Prop 8 was struck down; it went through many challenges, but in the end our vows, spoken in San Francisco’s City Hall near the bust of Harvey Milk remained intact.
Today, gay couples are lining up on this grey and cold Michigan morning to get married all over the state. Tod and I already are, and we can stay home and celebrate what took place six years ago in San Fran knowing that it is finally legal here in Michigan. Yes, this is about us dammit. It’s about us as a couple, it’s about us as a family, and it’s about us and our kids and what we can offer them as parents. Call us Groomzillas, but yeah, it’s all about us. While we won’t be donning our crazy pink vests today, we will look at our rings and marriage certificate and know that we made the right choice back in 2008. Our thanks to everyone involved and finally made this happen.

Us with the plaintiffs last night in Ann Arbor. 

You can read Judge Friedman’s scathing ruling, and judicial bitch slap to Snyder and Schuette over their defense of this archaic law here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1094703-friedman-ruling.html


Thursday, March 20, 2014

A note on the death of Fred Phelps


This was originally written over 10 years ago. I found it in my hard drive and thought it would be worth sharing with the recent news of Phelp’s death. I don’t really remember what the genesis was for this, or who it was written for… but I do know that at the time, my thoughts on him and his work were quite different than they were today. As an artist, I support free speech, even if it’s hateful. This doesn't sit well with some of my friends and colleagues but I support it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with it, but I support his right to share his thoughts, even if they are hateful and ill-timed. And my views on religion have changed as well. Back then, we were going to church and I had an active prayer life. Now, we focus on our family and instead of sitting around talking to God in our heads. I am just happy I was able to outlive him and his hatred. Our rainbow flag is flying a little brighter today. 
Here is the letter:

Dear Reverend Phelps,

I was praying to God the other night, and asked Him to help me understand all the evils that are currently plaguing our world.  I couldn’t understand why such a benevolent creator would put such hateful and ungodly folks on this planet, and have them do work in His good name. Then it dawned on me…

I immediately thanked God for this revelation, and ended my prayer to write this letter to you. I did some searching on the Internet, and found that in all the places that you and your congregation gather to protest, there is a great deal of love and outpouring of support for LGBT people and issues.  Often times, there had been no support before, but with the advent of your protests, people rally and come together, united in their intolerance for hatred and narrow minds. 

You are doing God’s work, bringing people together to support LGBT concerns.  Look at all the money the folks in Ann Arbor raised when you were there!(see link) They couldn’t have done that without your help.  Other communities are beginning to use this method as well… making your protest pay off for other causes.  It’s a win/win situation for all the groups.  You get your protest, and they get the money.  The longer you protest, the more they make.  What a great plan!

And look at Ferndale, MI where you recently did your thing. The city really didn’t have a focus or any kind of support for LGBT supporters.  But once you announced you were coming, groups formed, support networks cropped up, and the whole city united against you and your message of hatred. And just in time for the holidays.  Without you in Ferndale, this new community wouldn’t have happened.  You really should have worn a bow that day, as this was a great present to this community!

Thank you Reverend Phelps and thanks you to your congregation as well.  You are doing God’s work, spreading His love and understanding, whether you realize it or not.  I now understand why you were put on this planet.  You are the galvanizer of communities and causes.  Where you wish to disband and protest, you instead create support and understanding.  Your little message of hatred spawns a greater message of love and Christian understanding.

Now when I pray, I thank my God each night for you and your congregation, and ask that He support you in your unintentional cause. You have much work to do Fred, you aren’t getting any younger.  Go out there and spread God’s word!

God Bless you Fred!



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's us! ON THE NEWS!



Meant to post this link last week, but in the rush up to Spring Break, I forgot.
We were interviewed Monday night and the segment aired that evening and Tuesday morning.
The trial continues, and should be wrapped up by Friday. It appears that the judge will NOT rule on Friday, so who knows how much longer this will take.
Here is the link to our story on WILX

http://www.wilx.com/home/headlines/Michigans-Gay-Marriage-Ban-Heads-to-Trial-Tuesday-246993881.html

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Stuck in Jackson: where the photo came from


Stuck in Jackson.

I am always with my camera when we are out and about. With my adoption of a smart phone, having a camera at my bidding is even more convenient. I tell my design students to do the same, as you never know what you might encounter when you are out doing mundane things.
We live about a mile from the Cascades, a park in town that has a great walking trail, cool play structures and the actual Cascades: a giant wedding cake of a waterfall built years ago. The falls are illuminated each night during the summer and sappy music is pumped in synced to the changing lights hidden beneath the water.  If you've seen Soylent Green, you may remember the room where the folks are brought in before they are dispatched. It featured comfortable seating, soothing music, and pretty things to look at. 

This is the Cascades. It’s God’s waiting room.

But I digress…

We were at the Cascades one evening with the kids, camera in pocket. We began the climb to the top of the structure, we frolicked in the mist blowing around at the top and then began the slippery descent on the other side. When we came to one of the side pools, we heard crying and yelling coming from the other side of the balustraud. It was then we noticed the kid with his head stuck between the balusters. Tod immediately sprang into action and went to calm the kid down and dislodge him; I immediately grabbed my camera and leaned in to get the shot.
The kid was pretty upset, so it took a minute for Tod to actually free him allowing me the chance to focus and get the shot with my cheap pocket camera.

Cruel?

Perhaps.

Funny?

Hells yea.

I ended up calling the pic “Stuck in Jackson” and it’s a perfect visual metaphor for my life in this town.
We’re stuck here, and we’re doing our best to get the hell out, but things beyond our power are keeping us here. We can yell, cry, and struggle, but that only makes it worse.

  • We live in a state where our legal marriage is not recognized and we do not (at great expense to us) share the same benefits as heterosexual couples.
  • We live in a state where people like Dave Agema can make horrible comments about the LGBT community and no one seems to care.
  • We live in a city where our director of HR (Crystal Dixon) believes that we chose to be gay and it’s not a civil right.
  • We live in a triangle where there are several abandoned or soon to be abandoned homes, as well as several vacant lots where homes used to be.
  • We live in one of the worst states to live in if you are in education, as the laws enacted by the Republicans in power are decidedly anti-teacher.


So what do we do? We begin to remedy the situation. Once Tod got the kid calmed down, he was able to move the kid up to the area where he originally put his head and in back him out. There are changes coming in Michigan, slowly… and soon we may be living in a state where we recognized as a couple. It’s a slow process, and there are things that make me want to scream and cry, but I need to keep calm and ride this out.

Until then, I am stuck in Jackson.


Friday, January 24, 2014

High School Memories: A look back from 2002


Two Decades of Decadence:

Note: There has been some robust discussions taking place on the Facebook page from my high school graduating class and it has brought back some rather unpleasant memories. One of my classmates recounted the bullying he endured in high school and many thoughts I believed gone came back to the forefront. I was a writer for the Midwest Ursine, a now defunct online journal for the Great Lakes area which focused on Bear and Leather culture. I wrote the article in the spring of 2002, several months prior to the reunion and three years before we had kids. This is the edited version of the article from 2002.

The letter came in the mail, and my hands nervously opened the envelope.  I could not believe what I was holding. Was the awful reality of what I was about to read true?  Could it be that it had finally come to pass?  Was I really ready to read this horrible news enclosed?  The answers came back as a resounding yes... I was being invited to my 20th class reunion.  Was I really that old?
Could it be that 20 years have slipped by since I glided across the stage in the field house of Whitmer High School (home of the Panthers), eagerly accepting my diploma, and condemning my school’s choice of maize and blue?  Really now, we were in Ohio... shouldn’t we be scarlet and gray? Yes, the reality that I was now two decades out of high school came at me full force.  I brought up this fact to one of my classes at the college where I teach, and one of my students asked what year I graduated (obviously not a math major) and I replied “1982”, and she perkily responded, “Wow... that was the year I was born!” 
I plan on flunking her.
Many memories came flooding back; including the image of my smiling face in the 1982 Oracle yearbook (we will not discuss the hair or the glasses please).  I was full of optimism and eager to get the hell out of high school.  I went to a rather large urban school in Toledo, Ohio, so the horror stories that some of my friends who went to small rural schools shared with me were news to me.  We didn’t have a Gay/Straight Group at our high school, we had a Thespians Club, does that count?  We mockingly called it the F.F.A. of Whitmer, “Future Faggots of America” as the membership had quite a few gay members. My friends and I ran a small collective of homos and their supporters. We hung out together and shared our lives with each other. 
AIDS was still out of the picture at this time, and our future seemed bright.  If you were eighteen, you could get in to the bars in Toledo, and we did with gusto, diving into gay culture and all that it offered with abandon.  Whenever I hear Blondie’s “Rapture” I am taken back to the Scaramouche Bar and all the glitz and pseudo-eighties glamour it offered.  “Rapture” was the first song I ever heard in a gay bar, and it changed my life. I realized that there was a world of music out there that didn’t involve guitars and long hair, but rather whipped the listener into an orgasmic frenzy of movement and sound. Our parents didn’t understand, nor did we really.  We were fledgling homos, testing the waters of what was ahead. We shared stories of new boyfriends, crushes, and the latest music in the clubs.  12” singles were all the rage at the time, and we snatched them up at Boogie Records or the Shed whenever we could.  While our friends were jamming to the J. Giles Band and whatever else was playing on FM 104, we were bopping about the house to the sounds of YAZ and ABC.  Sylvester was our hero, and Donna Summers was our unofficial Diva. 
Madonna...?  Who?
In 1996, my partner and I traveled to Washington to view the Names Project AIDS Quilt, and the awful reality of AIDS hit home. I passed a block of names, and realized that this was my unofficial high school reunion.  Six of the eight names were guys I grew up with or went to school with.  It was all I could do to stand up right.  I had moved out of Toledo several years prior to the visit to the quilt, and had lost touch with many of my friends.  Through the tears, I choked out, “so, this is what you have been doing since high school.” We didn’t know about AIDS when we graduated, herpes was our biggest worry, so we played, and played without a care.  It became obvious that our ignorance had a price.
But on to the reunion...
A high school friend contacted me via email once I registered at the reunion’s website, and we began an email discussion, talking about all that we had been through.  She had been friends with many of my friends, some of whom were closeted in high school, but were now out and gay.  She shared this fact with her mom, and her mom quipped “well, that’s probably how you remained a virgin through high school!” 
Yep, us homos are good for something!

I began searching the website for who was coming and what they were up to now that we were adults and out in the “real world”.  I was glad to see that my high school crush from the football team would be there, as well as his best friend in high school.  Many adolescent fantasies were played out in my head, as I imagined what they did with each other when they weren’t practicing football, practicing misogyny, or beating up freshmen in the halls. Alas, my dreams of them being gay were dashed once again, as their bios mentioned that they were happily married (no, not to each other...) and planned on bringing their wives to the reunion.  My biggest question was how would they look?   
Would they have the lean, athletic bodies that so entranced me in high school?  How would they look now that they were officially middle aged?  I remember going in to an appliance shop with my folks on a visit back to Toledo... and found that one of the clerks was one of the football players from my class.  He had always caught my eye, as he had a sexy mustache and appeared to be rather hairy, even in high school.  But as we waited for our order to come down the chute at the store, I realized that the guy of my high school fantasies was now an overweight sales clerk who was balding and eagerly munching his power lunch: a bag of chips and a Big Gulp. 
Reality hit once again.  
I have gone through many changes in the past two decades myself, and I have many painful pictures that document every bad hair style and wacky eyewear choice.  Now my workouts have a new meaning... I want to look good come the reunion, and I want to show the class that I have made it. I have risen above all the crap that was high school... the names, the taunts, and the harassment.  I have become someone; someone many thought would never materialize.  I remember my mom asking me a question shortly after I came out to her and my father, “what do you have to live for if you are gay?  There is nothing out there but pain and disappointment.”  It seems that these are universal problems, and ones that are not exclusive to the gay community.  Yes, there has been pain, and yes, there have been disappointments... but I have survived, and I have become a better person because of that, and I can’t wait to share that with my classmates.